Palau's President Johnson Toribiong today signed an agreement with Greenpeace to conduct a joint patrol in search of illegal fishing. Just last December, the same joint patrol caught a Taiwanese ship illegally fishing for sharks.
Every year, it is estimated that Pacific island countries lose between US$134 million to US$400 million to illegal fishing. For countries with relatively small GDP, this not a minor problem. Palau's 2011 GDP for example was around US$180 million, according to the World Bank.
“Illegal fishing not only takes food from the mouths of my people, it also takes much-needed revenue from small island Pacific countries. Without proper and adequate enforcement to eliminate illegal fishing, our people’s futures continue to be placed at risk by fishing barons only interested in short-term profit,” President Toribiong said.
The Pacific is the source of roughly 60% of the world’s tuna, which provide coastal communities not only with food but also economic prosperity. However, the vast ocean is also proving to be a challenge, especially as only few countries have capacity to consistently patrol their waters and prevent illegal fishing activities.
For years, Greenpeace has been working with Pacific governments to address overfishing and prevent foreign fishing nations from plundering their waters of the tuna needed to grow the region’s economy and bolster food security. Scientists currently estimate that bigeye tuna is overfished in the Pacific, and yellowfin is in heavy decline.
“We are pleased that Greenpeace has offered their ship to help us patrol our waters. We hope to again to bring illegal fishers to justice, and send a clear message that we will not tolerate pirate fishing,” President Toribiong added.
From previous expeditions in the Pacific and other oceans, Greenpeace has compiled a Blacklist of fishing boats and companies that have been caught in illegal fishing activities.
On top of this, the larger problem of overfishing casts a dark cloud in the future of Pacific fisheries. There simply are too many fishing boats exploiting the Pacific ocean.
“The massive fleets of fishing vessels operating in the Pacific are placing the region’s food source in jeopardy and are literally fishing themselves out of existence. Greenpeace cannot allow this to happen and we will also leverage our influence to force compliance with our markets work,” said Greenpeace Pacific Political Advisor Seni Nabou.
Greenpeace is calling for marine reserves to be established in four high seas areas known as the Pacific Commons and declared off limits to fishing. The environmental group is also seeking a ban on the use of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) in purse seine fisheries and a 50% reduction in the catch of bigeye tuna. These measures are important to keep valuable fish stocks at a sustainable level and will be reviewed at the upcoming meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) in Manila from 2-6 December.
For more information:
Mark Dia, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Oceans Campaigner,
Arthur Dionio, Greenpeace International Communications Manager,